On June 21, 1996, at around 9 o’clock at night, Wilshire Area Officers Jeffrey Wenninger and Jose Castellanos were near the intersection of Beverly Boulevard and Croft Street when an explosion rocked the patrol car they were riding in, pelting it with shattered glass. The officers immediately tried to locate the source of the explosion. They found it had come from a retirement home, where smoke and flames were billowing from one of the windows.
From outside, the officers could see the source of the explosion was coming from a bedroom, where they feared a person might be trapped. After requesting additional units and the Fire Department, Officers Wenninger and Castellanos entered the two-story home through the front door, but were unable to see through the thick smoke. Dropping to their knees, the officers crawled down the hall toward the source of the smoke. Arriving at a bedroom, Officer Wenninger “ran the walls,” attempting to locate any trapped victims, while Officer Castellanos remained at the door of the bedroom, in case Officer Wenninger became disoriented from the intense smoke and heat. As partners, they understood that their safety depended on each other. Unable to fight the heat and smoke, both officers were forced to leave the building.
Once outside, Officers Wenninger and Castellanos met eleven other responding officers, Sergeant Albert Gavin and Officers Sandy Kim, Miguel Lopez, Alberto Junco, Stephen Diaz, Arturo Perez, Mark Pursel, Kenyard Bilal, Gerald Jackson, Guy Dobine, and Jude Washington.
Afraid that some elderly residents could still be trapped in burning bedrooms, together these thirteen officers formed a human chain and re-entered the home. On their hands and knees, struggling through the intense smoke and heat, the officers searched the first floor, finding no occupants. Forced to leave the burning building again, the thirteen officers divided themselves into smaller rescue teams and began an evacuation plan for the second story.
As flames and black smoke engulfed the second floor, officers could hear the pleas for help. After knocking down a large door, officers located elderly residents and guided them to safety. Some of them had to be physically carried. Each of the thirteen officers reentered the burning building several times to evacuate the entire facility. In the end, more than 80 senior citizens were rescued alive. These brave officers put their lives on the line and prevented what could have been a major disaster.
In their quest to save lives, Officers Wenninger, Castellanos, Lopez and Junco suffered severe smoke inhalation and headaches, and were rushed to a local hospital. Officers Castellanos, Lopez and Junco were treated and released; Officer Wenninger was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit and discharged from the hospital the following day.
On the evening of February 4, 1946, at around 8 o’clock, two armed men robbed a movie theater on East Santa Barbara Avenue. Police broadcast a physical description of the suspects, along with their route of escape, as the two suspects ran from the theater.
About 15 minutes later, Metropolitan Division Officer Walter Kesterson and his partner, conducting crime suppression duties in the area of 43rd Place and Avalon Boulevard, spotted the two armed men. Seeing that they matched the description of the suspects in the armed robbery, Officer Kesterson, who was seated on the passenger side of the police car, stepped out and tried to stop the two suspects. As Officer Kesterson approached, the first suspect reached into his coat pocket as if for a gun, and the fight was on. In the struggle, the suspect was able to arm himself with a .38 caliber revolver. He shot Officer Kesterson, hitting him in the upper body.
Officer Kesterson, an 18-year veteran, although mortally wounded, returned fire, hitting the suspect and killing him. Simultaneously, as the second suspect was removing a handgun from his pocket, Officer Kesterson aimed and shot him, neutralizing this deadly threat against himself and his partner. Officer Kesterson was rushed to a local hospital, where he died from his injuries.
An investigation found that the two suspects had committed at least 25 robberies in the Los Angeles area. Two weeks prior to Officer Kesterson’s encounter with these suspects, City of Vernon police officer Richard Henry Pennington, who stopped these same suspects for driving under the influence, was shot and killed by one of them.
Officer Kesterson is commended for his attention to duty, bravery, courage under fire, and after sustaining a fatal wound, continuing to fight two armed suspects until they were no longer a threat to the public, or to his fellow law enforcement officers.
In the early evening of May 1, 2006, around 5:30 p.m., Newton Area Special Problems Unit Officers Rudy Barragan and Marco Briones were stopped at a traffic light on the corner of Slauson Avenue and Avalon Boulevard. As they were waiting for the light to change, they saw a gray four-door Buick traveling on Avalon Boulevard jump the curb and crash into a power pole.
Officers Barragan and Briones immediately rushed to the car to help the driver and anyone else in it. Once they got to the car, they noticed smoke coming from the engine compartment. The female passenger, dazed from the crash, was able to open the passenger door and get out. The driver, a six-foot, 250-pound man, semi-conscious and bleeding heavily from an eight inch cut on his head, was trapped behind the steering wheel.
Three other Newton Area officers responded to the scene. Two of these officers grabbed fire extinguishers from their cars and tried to put out the flames now coming from the car. Another officer went to work diverting traffic away from the burning car.
As the flames began to ignite the passenger compartment, Officers Barragan and Briones struggled unsuccessfully to open the driver’s door. They next tried to remove the driver through the window, but were unable due to the man’s large physical stature. With the fire quickly engulfing the vehicle, Officers Barragan and Briones ran to the front passenger door. Using tremendous strength, both officers pulled the driver from behind the wheel, and out of the vehicle to safety. Just as they cleared the vehicle, they heard an explosion and the entire passenger compartment was engulfed in flames.
The driver of the vehicle was taken to a hospital where he was rushed into surgery. He had lost a large amount of blood because of his head wound. Thankfully, he was able to recover from his injuries.
On Saturday, August 12, 2006, at around 11 o’clock at night, Hollenbeck Area Officer James Tuck and his training officer, Officer John Porras, were on patrol in a black and white in the Lincoln Park area. Both officers observed a black Honda Accord traveling on Lincoln Park Boulevard with only one of its headlights working.
Deciding to make a traffic stop, Officer Porras made a U-turn and activated the light bar on his patrol car. The suspect driving the Honda turned on a side street, slowing down and speeding up several times. After turning on to another street, the suspect then pulled over.
As Officers Tuck and Porras pulled up from behind, a passenger immediately got out of the Honda from the front passenger side, pointed an assault rifle at the officers, and started firing off several rounds. Officer Tuck was hit multiple times in the left arm. Although wounded, he returned fire at the suspect, who kept coming toward the passenger side of the police car, firing his assault rifle indiscriminately at the officers.
Meanwhile, Officer Porras had gotten out of the driver’s side of the police car and returned fire. In this exchange of gunfire, Officer Porras, in a struggle for his life, managed to shoot the suspect in the upper right leg, causing him to drop the assault rifle and run down the street on foot. During the gun battle, the driver of the Honda had taken off in his car. Officer Porras broadcast an “Officer needs help” call, relaying details to the responding units.
The first officer to respond was Officer Jason Smith, Hollenbeck Division, a certified Emergency Medical Technician who immediately applied a tourniquet to Officer Tuck’s badly damaged arm and hand to control the bleeding. Checking for additional wounds, the officer located a gunshot wound on Officer Tuck’s back. Officer Smith remained with Officer Tuck and kept him stable until the Los Angeles Fire Department arrived and transported him to the hospital.
As the search for the suspect intensified, community members of that very neighborhood reported a prowler in a back yard. Responding officers found the suspect who had shot Officer Tuck. He was hiding under a parked vehicle.
Two and a half months later, while investigating an unrelated Domestic Violence incident, two astute officers recognized the suspect that had driven the Honda and arrested him on the felony warrant for the attempted murders of Officers Tuck and Porras.
On Saturday, June 3, 2006, at 11:30 at night, Officer Joseph Meyer and his partner, Officer Kristina Ripatti, were on patrol in Southwest Area when a man suddenly ran directly in front of their police car, causing Officer Meyer to slam on the brake. Intending to issue a citation, Officer Ripatti ordered the man to stop, but the man continued running, and increased his speed.
Both officers had strong suspicions that the man may have been involved in some type of criminal activity in the area.
Officer Meyer was about twenty feet behind Officer Ripatti when she was shot. Seeing his partner fall to the ground, he immediately drew his weapon and fired six shots, hitting the suspect four times and killing him. Officer Meyer immediately rushed to Officer Ripatti, who was lying on the porch suffering from a life-threatening gunshot wound.
Quickly broadcasting an “Officer needs help” call, Officer Meyer remained calm, cradled the wounded officer, assuring her that she would survive. One of the first responding officers, Sergeant Robin Brown, joined Officer Meyer and they both attempted to locate the wound and stabilize Officer Ripatti. Officer Meyer removed Officer Ripatti’s bulletproof vest and tracked the flow of blood to under her left arm. Both Officer Meyer and Sergeant Brown applied pressure to Officer Ripatti’s wound and attempted to keep her alert until medical personnel arrived.
Simultaneously, five officers from Metropolitan Division, Officers Keith Bertonneau, Ralph Ward, Gary Koba, Gilbert Pinel and Ivan Ramos who were Emergency Medical Technicians, arrived and relieved Officer Meyer and Sergeant Brown. All four Metropolitan Division officers surrounded the wounded officer to administer first aid. Between the four officers, they managed to keep Officer Ripatti alive by controlling her loss of blood, administering oxygen, and performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation when they noticed that the wounded officer had no pulse. The four officers maintained their positions until the Los Angeles Fire Department arrived and transported the wounded officer to the hospital. Officer Ripatti survived her life-threatening injuries.